First Central Asian Education Forum: Joint effort to improve education in Central Asia

18 January 2002

The inaugural meeting for the CARK Education Forum took place in Almaty on January 17-18, 2002. It was attended by more than 100 participants, including senior government officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, representatives from national and international NGOs, representatives from the UN and other donor agencies, and representatives from embassies located in Kazakhstan. The primary objectives of the Education Forum are to:

  • Ensure continuous and systematic follow-up to the Global Education Forum in Dakar, and to monitor the progress of national EFA action plans;
  • Monitor education reform, develop partnerships with international agencies and NGOs, and foster inter-country collaboration with the aim of successfully completing the EFA campaign by 2015; and
  • Ensure a broad understanding of, and commitment to, childrens rights and quality basic education within the context of the Global Movement for Children (GMC) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Forum agreed to pursue the objectives using the following strategies:
  • Networking and coordination among member countries;
  • Promoting partnership and technical cooperation;
  • Providing advice and guidance to countries organizing EFA activities;
  • Setting area-wide targets and establishing monitoring mechanisms;
  • Sharing best practices; and
  • Conducting dialogues on policy, advocacy and resource mobilization.
The working structures were established during the first Forum: an Executive Committee, Secretariat, and Thematic Working Groups (TWGs). Leaders of TWGs include the CARK deputy education ministers, one of whom is chosen to be Chairperson of the Executive Committee; the position rotates annually. The Executive Committee meets twice a year. Committee tasks include coordinating activities, exchanging information, establishing the TWGs, monitoring and defining needs, setting the date for the annual Forum, and producing a periodical. The task of the TWGs is to highlight the root causes of educational problems and to recommend solutions.

The Central Asian Education Forum is based on the example of the Central Asian Republics and Kazakhstan Mother and Child Health Forum (CARK MCH Forum) that was initiated jointly with the CARK countries and UNICEF in 1997. Since then every country has hosted the Forum at least once. Through the years the Forum has provided a valuable opportunity for the policy makers, technical experts and implementers to identify the priority issues in the area of mother-child health. Through technical working groups they were able to elaborate the roots of the problems and search for practical solutions. The working groups, such as Maternal and neo-natal care, Micro-nutrient Deficiency and Breast feeding, have developed strategies and recommended solutions that are relevant to the context. The MCH Forum has enabled its member countries to produce and share information, and develop the skills of health personnel in order to improve the health of mothers and children. The CARK Education Forum aspires to the success of the MCH Forum. The CARK Education Forum is also a follow up to the World Education Forum that was held in Dakar, in April 2000. The World Education Forum, reviewing the achievements as well as the unmet EFA goals of Jomtien in 1990, expressed a collective commitment to ensure that the right to a basic education of good quality is fully achieved by 2015. All countries of the world adhered to a universal EFA Declaration articulated around six major goals to be implemented by 2015. The six goals are as follows: 1. Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children 2. Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to, and are able to complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality 3. Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes 4. Achieving a 50 % improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults 5. Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on to and achievement in basic education of good quality 6. Improving every aspect of the quality of education, and ensuring excellence so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills The CARK Education Forum can help its member countries to achieve these educational goals by building partnerships and developing a common understanding of what is needed. This was already apparent during the country discussions of the first day. Among the CARK countries several common problems were identified and solutions offered. While national education systems have evolved in ways that broadly reflect the evolution of the five countries in Central Asia, they have also shared a common starting point, and the difficulty for many Governments to maintain their education systems through a period of extreme fiscal pressure has also been evident in each of the countries. Against this background, there are limited opportunities for education policy makers to share their experiences of the last decade, and the challenges with which they are currently dealing. It was therefore decided to establish the Education Forum in order to draw policy makers together to review experiences of education reform, and to consider policy options relevant to current agendas.

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